Professor Kristján Kristjánsson

Professor Kristján Kristjánsson

School of Education
Professor of Character Education and Virtue Ethics
Deputy Director of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues

Contact details

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues
School of Education
12th Floor (West) Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Kristján Kristjánsson’s research orientation can best be summed up as that of Aristotle-inspired philosophical scrutiny of theories in educational psychology and values education, with special emphasis on the notions of character and virtuous emotions. He has written extensively on themes in general education, moral education, educational psychology, moral philosophy and political philosophy, and sees himself essentially as a bridge-builder between philosophy and social science.

Kristjánsson is the author of Social Freedom: The Responsibility View (C.U.P., 2006), Justifying Emotions: Pride and Jealousy (Routledge, 2002), Justice and Desert-Based Emotions (Ashgate, 2006), Aristotle, Emotions and Education (Ashgate, 2007), The Self and Its Emotions (C.U.P., 2010), Virtues and Vices in Positive Psychology (C.U.P., 2013) and Aristotelian Character Education (Routledge, 2015), the last of which was voted the best research monograph in Education in 2015 by the British Society of Education Studies. Kristjánsson has published over 100 articles in international journals and has recently taken over as editor of Journal of Moral Education.

He has been a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University, University of Konstanz, St. Edmund’s College (Cambridge University) and Institute of Education (University of London). In 1997, he was elected the Young Humanities Scholar of the Year by the Icelandic Council of Science, and in 2011 he was presented with the Ása Guðmundsdóttir Wright Award, the most prestigious scholarly award given annually to an Icelandic academic across the Sciences and Humanities.


  • University of St. Andrews, Scotland, 1987-1990: PhD in Moral Philosophy 
  • University College of Teaching, Reykjavík, Iceland (part-time), 1984-1986: Teacher’s Diploma 
  • University of Iceland, 1980-1983: B.A.-degree in Philosophy and German


Kristján Kristjánsson has teaching experience at junior and senior high-school level before embarking on a university career. He was Lecturer, Reader and finally Professor in the School of Education, University of Akureyri (Iceland) from 1991–2008 (where he was also for a long time Vice-Dean, and Acting Head of Department for one year); and Professor of Philosophy of Education, School of Education, University of Iceland, from 2008. He was appointed Professor of Character Education and Virtue Ethics in the School of Education, University of Birmingham, with effect from September 1, 2012.

Postgraduate supervision

Kristján Kristjánsson has wide experience of working with postgraduate students and would be interested in supervising doctoral students across a large area of concerns and interests, having to do with moral education, virtue ethics, well-being, educational values, teacher/student emotions and self-concepts.

Doctoral research

PhD title
Freedom as a Moral Concept. University of St. Andrews, 1990.


  • Positive psychology and positive education, with special emphasis on Peterson and Seligman’s theory of virtue 
  • Well-being and education 
  • Selfhood, self-concepts (self-esteem, self-respect, self-efficacy, etc.) and education
  • The nuances of character and personality, and their moral and educational relevance
  • Professional and personal virtues and education 
  • The nature, scope and aims of moral/character education 
  • The situationist challenge to character and character education 
  • Virtue ethics and education 
  • Emotions as potential virtues and vices 
  • Aristotle’s theory of moral development, moral virtues and phronesis 
  • Justice and justice-related emotions 
  • The nature of so-called negative emotions such as jealousy 
  • Freedom as a moral concept

Other activities

Other activities

1992-1995: Chairman, University of Akureyri Research Institute
1994-2002: Vice-Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Akureyri
1997-1998: Acting Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Akureyri
1999 (spring semester): Visiting Scholar, University of Konstanz, Germany
1999-2002: Chairman, Society of Professors in Iceland
1999–2008: Chairman, University of Akureyri Evaluation Committee for Promotions and Recruitment
2000–2011: Member of the Akureyri District Hospital Ethical Committee
2001 (spring semester): Visiting Research Fellow, Cornell University, U.S.A.
2002 (spring semester): Visiting Scholar, Faculty of Education, Cambridge University, England; Visiting Fellow St. Edmund’s College
2004 (spring semester): Visiting Fellow, St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University
2005–: Member of the Editorial Board, Journal of Moral Education
2006 (spring semester): Visiting Fellow, St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University
2009–2012: Member of the Editorial Board, Icelandic Journal of Educational Research
2009–2012: Chairman, School of Education University of Iceland Evaluation Committee for Promotions and Recruitment
2009 (spring semester): Visiting Fellow, Institute of Education, University of London
2012 (spring semester): Visiting Fellow, Institute of Education, University of London

Referee for journals such as Ethics, Mind, American Philosophical Quarterly, International Philosophical Quarterly, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Philosophical Explorations, Philosophical Quarterly, Studies in Philosophy and Education, Journal of Moral Education, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, Alberta Journal of Education, Journal of Social Philosophy, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Nursing Philosophy, Journal of Positive Psychology, Social Psychology of Education, Journal of Moral Philosophy, Emotion, Space and Society, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, Theory and Psychology, British Journal of Educational Studies, Educational Review, Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Review of Education



Arthur, J., Kristjánsson, K., Harrison, T. W. Sanderse and D. Wright (2016) Teaching Character and Virtue in SchoolsLondon: Routledge

Carr, D., Arthur, J. and Kristjánsson, K. (Eds) (2016, in press) Varieties of Virtue Ethics. London: Palgrave-Macmillan

Kristjánsson, K. (2015) Aristotelian Character Education. London: Routledge.

Kristjánsson, K. (2013) Virtues and Vices in Positive Psychology: A Philosophical Critique. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kristjánsson, K. (2010 hb, 2012 pb) The Self and Its Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Kristjánsson, K. (1996 hb, 2007 pb) Social Freedom: The Responsibility View. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Kristjánsson, K. (2007) Aristotle, Emotions, and Education. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing

Kristjánsson, K. (2006) Justice and Desert-Based Emotions. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing

Kristjánsson, K (2002 hb, 2006 pb) Justifying Emotions: Pride and Jealousy. London: Routledge

Kristjánsson, K. (1996). Social Freedom: The Responsibility View. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Chapters in edited collections

Kristjánsson, K. (in press) Virtue from the Perspective of Psychology in Handbook of Virtue Ethics, ed. N. Snow. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Kristjánsson, K. (in press) A Tale of Two Default Approaches: Some Old Answers for a New Theory: Response to Valerie Tiberius in Moral Psychology, Vol. 5: Virtue & Happiness, eds. W. Sinnott-Armstrong  and C. Miller. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Kristjánsson, K. (2016) The New Synthesis in Moral Psychology versus Aristotelianism: Content and Consequences in Dual-Process Theories in Moral Psychology: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Theoretical, Empirical and Practical Considerations, ed. C. Brand. Wiesbaden: Springer AS.

Kristjánsson, K. (2016) What Are Icelandic Teachers’ Attitudes towards Democracy in Education? (co-authors Ingimar Ólafsson Waage and Amalía Björnsdóttir) in Democracy and Decency: What Has Education Got to Do with It?, ed. P. R. Carr, P. L. Thomas, B. Porfilio and J. Gorlewski. Charlotte, NC: IAP.    

Kristjánsson, K. (2012) Habituated Reason: Aristotle and the Paradox of Moral Education” in Theories of Learning, ed. D. Scott. London: Sage.    

Kristjánsson, K. (2011) Some Aristotelian Reflections on Teachers’ Professional Identities and the Emotional Practice of Teaching” in Towards Professional Wisdom: Practical Deliberation in the “People Professions”, eds. L. Bondi, D. Carr, C. Clark & C. Clegg. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Kristjánsson, K. (2011) The Unfortunate Seclusion of Moral Education in an Age of Virtue Ethics: Why Has Psychology Not Delivered the Goods?” in Moral Education and Development: A Lifetime Commitment: Liber Amicorum Jan Steutel, eds. Doret J. de Ruyter & Siebren Miedema. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers

Kristjánsson, K. (2010) Valuing the Self in International Research Handbook on Values Education and Student Wellbeing, eds. T. Lovat & R. Toomey. Dordrecht: Springer.

Kristjánsson, K. (2009) Emotional Optimality and Moral Force” in Emotions, Ethics, and Authenticity, eds. M. Salmela and V. Mayer. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Kristjánsson, K. (2008) Suicide Bombing as Deluded Self-Enhancement” in Suicide Bombers: The Psychological, Religious and Other Imperatives, ed. Mary Sharpe (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2008)

Kristjánsson, K. (2008) Parents and Children as Friends in Morality and Moral Controversies: Readings in Moral, Social and Political Philosophy, eds. J. Arthur & S. Scalet. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Kristjánsson, K. (2008) Self-Esteem, Self-Confidence and Individualised Education“ in International Perspectives on Education, ed. Chau Meng Huat and Trevor Kerry. London: Continuum.

Kristjánsson, K. (2007) Social Freedom” in Freedom: A Philosophical Anthology, eds. Ian Carter, Matthew Kramer and Hillel Steiner. Oxford: Blackwell

Kristjánsson, K. (2003) Values Education at School: A Taxonomy of Some Recent Trends, in Philosophieren in schwieriger Zeit, ed. Martin Bolz. Münster: LIT Verlag.

Kristjánsson, K. (1999) Self-Respect, Megalopsychia, and Moral Education, in Philosophy for Children on Top of the World: Proceedings of the Eight International Conference on Philosophy with Children, eds. Hreinn Pálsson, Brynhildur Sigurðardóttir, and Barbara B. Nelson. Akureyri: University of Akureyri. 

Journal Articles (most recent) 

Kristjánsson, K. (2016) Jealousy Revisited:  Recent Philosophical Work on a Maligned Emotion, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 19 (3)

Kristjánsson, K. (2016) A Philosophical Critique of Psychological Studies of Emotion: The Example of Jealousy, Philosophical Explorations, in press

Jordan, K. & Kristjánsson, K. (2016) Sustainability, Virtue ethics, and the Virtue of Harmony with Nature, Environmental Education Research.

Thórainsdóttir, K., Björnsdóttir, K. & Kristjánsson, K. (2016) Development of Hermes, a New Person-Centered Assessment Tool in Nursing Rehabilitation, through Action Research, Advances in Nursing Science, in press

Kristjánsson, K. (2016) Recent Work on Flourishing as the Aim of Education: A Critical Review, British Journal of Educational Studies.

Kristjánsson, K. (2016) Flourishing as the Aim of Education: Towards an Extended, ‘Enchanted’ Aristotelian account, Oxford Review of Education, in press

Kwon, S., Kristjánsson, K. & Walker, D. (2016) Misery in Dark Shadows behind the High Achievement Scores in South Korean Schooling: An Ethnographic Study, Educational Review, available online

Kristjánsson, K. (2015) Phronesis as an Ideal in Professional Medical Ethics: Some Preliminary Positionings and Problematics, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 36 (5), 2015 

Kristjánsson, K. (2015) Grief: An Aristotelian Justification of an Emotional Virtue, Res Philosophica, 92 (4)

Kristjánsson, K. (2015) An Aristotelian Virtue of Gratitude, Topoi, 34 (2)

Walker, D., Roberts, M. & Kristjánsson, K. (2015).Towards a New Era of Character Education in Theory and in Practice. Educational Review, 67(1).

Kristjánsson, K. (2014). Pity: A Mitigated Defence. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 44(3-4).

Morgan, B., Gulliford, L. & Kristjánsson, K. (2014). Gratitude in the U.K: A new prototype analysis and a cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(4).

View all publications in research portal


Character education, social and emotional learning, positive psychology/positive education, moral psychology

Media experience

TV, newspapers


Character education, social and emotional learning, positive psychology/positive education, soft skills, philosophy in the classroom

Policy experience

Advisory role for governmental bodies in various countries